“Somewhere in Miami, Mike Tannenbaum smiles.”
In a shocking turn of events Wednesday evening, the Carolina Panthers rescinded their franchise tag placed on cornerback Josh Norman, immediately making one of the top-tier corners in the NFL a free-agent. The Panthers franchise tag would have paid Norman $13.95 million for the 2016 season.
According to multiple sources, the former fifth round draft pick had yet to sign the Panthers’ franchise offer, and planned on holding out throughout training camp. As first reported by Ian Rapport, Norman’s camp allegedly sought a long-term deal worth between $15 million and $16 million a year, which would make him one of the highest paid at his position in the league.
That was a deal which the Panthers were not ready to extend his way!
Norman ended the 2015 season allowing a passer rating of 54.0, ranking the best in the NFL. While also grading out the best overall corner on Pro Football Focus, Norman brought to the table a high-motor and relentlessness on defense, which made him a natural leader in Carolina.
With teams like the Jacksonville Jaguars, San Francisco 49ers, Pittsburgh Steelers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Miami Dolphins showing interest in the 28-year old cover corner, could Miami for the fourth consecutive season pull the trigger, landing the biggest free-agent to hit the market …. and if so at what cost?
In releasing both Brent Grimes and Brice McCain, the Dolphins’ need for depth at DB has exponentially grown, leaving the best possible CB2 on roster to be 2013 second-round pick Jamar Taylor.
Taylor has battled injuries throughout much of his career, and graded among the worst CBs in the NFL for the 2015.
According to the NFLPA latest figures, the Miami Dolphins have around $19.5 million of available cap, and will still need to sign their entire rookie draft class (estimated cost of draft class: $3-6 million).
In adding Miami’s draft picks to available cap, the Dolphins’ would be left with very limited cap in offering Norman anywhere near his $15-16 million dollar asking price.
The Quick Solution?
Cut or Trade Cameron Wake
Cameron Wake, 34, is coming off a sever Achilles injury and it’s unknown exactly how healthy the former Pro-Bowl defensive end will be, come season start. In cutting or trading Cameron Wake, the Dolphins’ can gain $8.4 million in cap relief, while still having the ability to draft a viable replacement to pair with newly acquired defensive end Mario Williams. The move would be devastating for fans, as Wake has not only become a staple of the Miami Dolphins, but also a staple in the Miami-Dade community. However, if rebuilding Miami’s struggling defense is a part of Chris Grier and Mike Tannenbaum’s plan, moving on from an aging veteran while pairing Norman with Byron Maxwell, Isa Abdul-Quddus, and Reshad Jones could give the Dolphins’ one of the best young secondaries in the NFL.
With the Dolphins’ defense ranking among the top-10 in highest cap, yet 25th in total defense, it should come as no shock that Miami will do just about anything to become relevant again.
Ultimately in the fight to sign Josh Norman, Cameron Wake could be a casualty of war.